Why is Sweet Caroline sung at football and who sung it originally?

Football fans love to belt out the song after a victory, but many wonder where Sweet Caroline's football connection came from

The Lionesses on a football pitch after their semi-final victory over Australia
(Image credit: Getty Images)

England football fans are hoping to celebrate a World Cup victory on Sunday 20 August, and there's one song that will be played up and down the county if the Lionesses win. But why is Sweet Caroline sung at football and where did the tradition come from?

People no longer need to ask who are the Lionesses, as the England women's team  who conquered the Euro's in 2022 have become household names. With the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 almost at a close, the whole country is now familiar with the names Lucy Bronze, Lauren Hemp, Alessia Russo and the rest of the history-makers - especially now they're just one match away from winning the tournament.

Only Spain stand in the way of England thanks to their victory over Australia's Matildas, and should the Lionesses bring football home the post-match celebrations are likely to include crowds singing one particular song. Sweet Caroline has become a staple of international football matches in recent years, and in the same way fans were asking about the Freedom of the City honour awarded to the team after their historic Euros win last summer, there's another question: Why is Sweet Caroline sung at football?

Why is Sweet Caroline sung at football?

Sweet Caroline becoming a football song appears to have happened by chance, but it solidified its place as England's football anthem during the 2020 Euros, when it was played after the team's win over Germany in the quarter-final.

The song has been used in sporting matches across the Atlantic since the 1990s. Legend has it that in 1997 it was played during a Boston Red Sox baseball game because an employee at the stadium had a newborn called Caroline. Since then, Sweet Caroline has been the unofficial anthem of the Red Sox, as the players believe it brought them good luck. 

By 2017, Arsenal began to introduce the song, playing it after their FA Cup semi-final win, and in 2019 Aston Villa played it during the Championships. Elsewhere in the UK, Sweet Caroline has been adopted by the England cricket team, Tyson Fury and fans of the Northern Irish football team.

Now, the song is also firmly recognised as a football anthem for the England national teams. Following England's quarter-final win over Germany in the 2020 Euros, Wembley DJ Tony Parry said he decided to play Sweet Caroline instead of Fat Les' 1998 World Cup anthem Vindaloo. He told TalkSport: "I was going to play Vindaloo, but went with my gut. Even the German fans were belting it out in the end. It's a song that all fans can enjoy."

The crowd went wild for it and, since then, the song has earned a permanent place on England fans' set list, alongside David Baddiel and Frank Skinner's Three Lions. Even the England men's manager Gareth Southgate has thrown his support behind the song, telling The Telegraph, "I was in the dressing room [during the 2020 Euros] when the team were out on the pitch warming up ahead of the Germany game. That was the first time I started to hear that in the stadium. And it was just so powerful. I could tell that people were excited for the game and with the team. You don't often hear the crowd from within the dressing room. It was almost like you could feel this is going to be a good day.

Women's Euros final 2022

Sweet Caroline was recently used in football to celebrate the Lionesses historic win over Germany in the 2022 Euros final, ending England's 56-year wait for a major football trophy.

Chloe Kelly scored during extra time to seal the win for England - despite only recently recovering from an ACL injury - and the Lionesses' achievement has been hailed as a new beginning for the women's game.

Commentator Alex Scott, who retired from international football in 2017, said "In 2018 we were begging people to host in their stadiums a women's game for these Euros. So many people said no. I hope you're all looking at yourselves right now because you weren't brave enough to see the vision."

Sweet Caroline was at the forefront of the celebrations for the historic achievement. The song blasted through Wembley Stadium during the post-match celebrations, with Chloe Kelly ditching a live interview to join in the singing.

And the England ladies didn't tire of singing the football anthem easily. They later gatecrashed head coach Sarina Wiegman's press conference, chanting the tune in a conga formation, with goalkeeper Mary Earps and defender Lucy Bronze dancing on top of the table.

Why does Tyson Fury sing Sweet Caroline?

Boxer Tyson Fury released Sweet Caroline as his debut single ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, to raise money for men's mental health charity Talk Club.

He released a cover of the classic song on November 11, 2022. Telling the BBC he feels a particular connection to the track, Fury said "Sweet Caroline is a record I've always loved and I'm excited to record and release it. And thanks to the folks over at Warner Music, they've given me the opportunity to do that, and what better time to release it than around the World Cup." 

Adding that the Talk Club charity "Do such amazing work," Fury has been open about his own struggles with mental health, and donated 100% of the profits from the single including his own earnings, to them. Talk Club supports men by providing talking groups, sports groups and therapy.

Who sung Sweet Caroline originally?

American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond released Sweet Caroline in May 1969 as a single. The song peaked at number three in the U.S. charts, later reaching number eight in the UK in 1971. 

It's popularity is however long lasting, and following the 2020 Euros the song re-entered the UK singles charts over 50 years after its original release, landing at number 48 and later moving up to number 20.

During the 2020 tournament, Diamond got behind the English team, telling The Telegraph "What a thrill it was to hear everybody singing Sweet Caroline at Wembley. I hope you can do it again - here's to England."

Sweet Caroline song meaning

Neil Diamond wrote Sweet Caroline about John F. Kennedy's daughter, Caroline, who was eleven years old when the song was released. He later performed the song at her 50th birthday party.

However, in 2014, Neil Diamond told Today that the song was also about his wife at the time, Marsha, but he used the name Caroline because he needed a three syllable name for the melody. He said that Caroline Kennedy gave him the idea for the name, but had nothing more to do with the inspiration for the song.

Sweet Caroline lyrics

Where it began, I can't begin to knowing
But then I know it's growing strong
Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined
To believe they never would
But now I

Look at the night and it don't seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurting runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when holding you

One, touching one
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined
To believe they never would
Oh no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believe they never could
Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good

If you're mad about football, we've also revealed how much Ryan Reynolds paid for Wrexham Football Club when he bought it in 2021. The documentary he made about the club's purchase was so popular, viewers can't wait for Welcome To Wrexham season 2. It came as a shock to learn Reynolds planned to live in Wales, something wife Blake Lively might not be pleased about now they've welcomed their fourth child together.

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.